The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have at present geared up their reforms of having set up an Oil-based, Corporation-powered economy, the Start-up Riyadh, that is all channelized from Small as well as Medium Enterprises (Monshaat), thereby turning as the pivotal point for the emergence of a better, sustainable as well as entrepreneurial cultured hub.
Arriving at their offices within the kingdom’s metropolis Riyadh Front, not far from King Khaled International Airport, I am met by Sara Almangour, Monshaat’s Director of Entrepreneurship Hubs.
Almangour stated out to me that, “We have two sections. The Entrepreneurship Hub on the ground floor and the Innovation Center upstairs. They work in tandem, along with Monshaat’s SME Support Center in the building opposite. This provides a supportive environment for anybody running a business or planning to start one up.”
Gathered around the spacious premises, dozens of young women and men are huddled over their laptops or engaged in the discussion. Many are here for the Acceleration Program, an intensifying months-long training and mentoring workout that offers out the start-up entrepreneurs the knowledge and devices necessitated to accomplish swift advancement, touch out a bigger market base and become an honest investment proposal.
Participants in this agenda arrive every morning as they would for an office job, and duly operate in workshops, boot camps and seminars. Experts from FinTech, Health care and Educational Technology, for an illustration, offer out the advice on niche areas, and there is a cluster of mentors from every sector.
Almangour further stated out that; “What we’re trying to build is a community of startups and other players in the ecosystem. Rather than planning too much, we allow things to happen organically. For example, some startups have merged to form a single company, or provide their services to one another, or exchange valuable information based on their experiences. It’s education and mentorship, but also very much ‘real world’.”
Potential investors pay a swifter visit to clarify what they are overviewing at for, and at the close of the program a demo day is apprehended for participating entrepreneurs to create out their five-minute “elevator pitch” to an accumulated group of angels and private equity investors. Within the pandemic this gathering is virtual rather than live.
Upstairs, I meet Mohammed Almamar, Tech Innovation Specialist. “The Innovation Centers are all about digital transformation,” he tells me.
“The Riyadh centre specializes in the Internet of Things (IoT) and cybersecurity, and the Khobar centre focuses on artificial intelligence and data analytics. We have a track for traditional businesses to adopt new technology, and we have another track for innovative startups.”
A friendly speaking robot guides us into the futuristic Innovation Space where, with the aid of “digital fabrication machines” such as laser-cutters and 3D printers, physical product concepts are developed from mere ideas to working prototypes.
“We provide expertise in terms of sketching, designing, 3D visualization and eventually, 3D printing and assembling,” Almamar says. “We might experiment with different alterations and versions of prototypes until the client achieves what he or she is looking for.”
In the shared office area, which has prospects comprising of the hot-desks and devoted private offices, I am introduced to a few of the start-up teams: EIA, contributing power efficiency solutions and green building consultancy; Daily Meals, a subscription-based contributor of healthy meals to workplaces; PTWay (Part-Time Way), which matches employers with part-time and short-term workers; and Rowad Tech, which strategies courses and certification for the animation industry.
Mohammed Al-Hassan, a young entrepreneur, explains his product: “This is called Shuttle. It’s a smart locker that is linked with e-commerce operators and their customers. The package is delivered to this locker, and you can pick it up whenever you like. You open your locker with your smartphone, from wherever you are in the world — so someone else can collect the package for you. It makes delivery cheaper and more efficient, and gives an enhanced customer experience, so it’s win-win for everybody and all done with IoT technology.”
Around the corner, in the 24-hour open office, I meet the DataLexing team, whose software allows ordinary managers to produce data analysis reports without the need for expensive data analysts.
“A data analysis report normally requires three to six weeks to produce,” DataLexing CEO Rayan Al-Faheid says. “But using our software it takes only three to six hours, with no need for expertise.”
Adaptation is going viral in the GCC, and DataLexing has been approached by customers outside the region.
“We’ve really been helped with the Innovation Center and the SME Support Center,” says Al-Faheid. “And with the community here, if I need help with marketing, I can approach one of the other startups, and they can also come to us for expertise.”
If Vision 2030 is about cultural change, Startup Hub Riyadh is where that shift is happening at lightning pace — with the necessary resources and network of contacts for ambitious young people to bring their ideas to fruition and launch themselves into the global marketplace.